Public Relations and Science: An Odd Combination

(Jas’ note: I’m really happy to introduce you to Ryan Swafford, a PR student who has a background in chemistry and biology. I was immediately intrigued and began chatting with him. I asked Ryan to guest blog on PR and science.)

Public relations workers must have knowledge of a wide range of topics to be effective communicators. In my opinion, science has become one of the subjects we most need to value. So, why is science important to public relations? Well, it influences many aspects of our daily lives, from our health to our technology. An understanding of it allows practitioners to further their credibility with the public and possible clients.

For example, one of the first things that come to mind for me is the inundation from the media about the benefits of antioxidants (partly because I’ve worked in a grocery store). My point though is that PR people who promote those antioxidants and have knowledge of the way they work will seem more trustworthy in their appeals to their target audiences. Public relations workers must have knowledge of a wide range of topics to be effective communicators. In my opinion, science has become one of the subjects we most need to value. So, why is science important to public relations? Well, it influences many aspects of our daily lives, from our health to our technology. An understanding of it allows practitioners to further their credibility with the public and possible clients.

Or, take the recent recall of Jensen Farm’s cantaloupes which were contaminated with L. monocytogenes. It’s the responsibility of PR professionals to distribute fast, accurate information about the outbreak and the signs of illness. However, it’d be a great advantage for the people tasked with press releases to know that while listeriosis is a serious illness that should be treated immediately, it acutely affects the elderly, newborns, pregnant women and adults with weakened immune systems. This knowledge is not only helpful in delivery of messages, but in targeting specific audiences and preventing consumer frenzies.

Other times, a scientific discovery is so groundbreaking that the science nerd in me has to tell everyone. Did you hear that neutrinos, or subatomic particles, were clocked going faster than the speed of light? If valid, this research throws a wrench into Einstein’s theory of relativity. I won’t pretend to know anything about quantum physics though, so I’ll just stop right there.

Obviously, I love anything science-related, but why did I end up combining it with public relations? As I was growing up, I developed strong desires for both writing and science. In college, I struggled with choosing one of the two. It took three years and advice from friends and family to decide on a career in chemistry. Following graduation, I found a job in a lab doing research.

After a while, I started to feel trapped and only later began to realize it was because I couldn’t see the impact my work was having on our clients. When I was laid off, I took it as an opportunity to reassess the decisions I had made and find a career I would enjoy, one that involved more interaction with people. It was by sheer luck when researching graduate schools that I ran across Boston University’s science journalism program. Almost immediately, it struck me that there was a unique opportunity to blend my background in science with training in journalism, a desire that never faded. As I thought more deeply, I felt it simply wasn’t enough to write for the public to explain scientific concepts and research. Rather, I believe it’s just as important to spread and promote the messages of organizations like the American Cancer Society and Jane Goodall Institute to help them achieve their goals. This conviction led me to choose a life in public relations. So far, I’ve enjoyed every minute.

Ryan Swafford is a senior at Missouri Western State University. He will graduate in December 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations. Contact Ryan on Twitter via @Ryan_Swafford or on LinkedIn.

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About JasMollica

"It's never too late to have a life and it's never too late to change one." That's something I tell students, friends, and family all the time. After living and working in New York City, I took my own advice in 2004, switched my career from the television/radio industry and got into public relations. Now, I spend my days as a PR/social media marketing consultant and get inspired daily. It's been a good ride, so far. But the car has plenty of gas left. I hope you'll join along in this guy's journey!

Posted on November 3, 2011, in Guest Blog, Inspiration, Public Relations and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Thanks, for giving me the opportunity to post a guest blog, Jason! This means a lot as I learn more about PR everyday.

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